It was one of those truly beautiful mid-summer evenings where the whole world seemed to be sitting tranquilly enjoying the brilliant colours streaked across the sky by a huge blood-orange coloured setting sun. The serenity was enhanced by birdsong, the sound an avian prayer of thanks for another day.
Two figures sat in the garden lost in their thoughts, unwilling to disturb the mood of peace with words of despair. Both dearly wanted their partners to be beside them believing them the only ones able to dispel their companion’s sense of helplessness.
With not a word spoken, the elder of the two reached into a pocket, extracted a colourful six-inch cardboard tube and handed it to his companion who took it and popped off its brilliant orange cap. On the underside was the letter ‘G’. A handful of brilliantly coloured chocolate beans shot out of the tube with a familiar ‘whoosh’, the tube – minus its lid – being returned to its owner.
The sweets were not immediately eaten, however, but held loosely as Harry’s gaze travelled up to the sky and on the memory of many hours spent studying astronomy at Hogwarts.
Looking up, he could still identify the planets, noting accurately that Mars was no longer as bright as it had been before his defeat of Voldemort. The inky blankness was caressed by the veil-like Milky Way stretching out across the galaxy. It reminded Harry of the gossamer veil, woven specially by Mosag, Aragog’s wife, as a gift for the future wife of the basilisk-slayer. It had been decorated with jewel-bright spider-tears, each one shed for one of her children killed when they rose in support of Harry and Dumbledore’s fight against Voldemort.
The Astronomy Tower also brought to mind two of the strongest women Harry knew: Professor Minerva McGonagall and his Ginny. Her defence of Hagrid in Harry’s fifth year had become the stuff of Hogwarts legend; the once irascible Deputy Headmistress earning the epithet ‘Minerva the Magnificent’ among the older students.
Harry’s memories of Ginny and the Astronomy Tower, however, made him glad that he and Arthur were sitting in the dark and that his father-in-law was not an accomplished Legilimens.
The Smarties were held for far too long before Harry finally shot them all at once into his open mouth. The sweets had left small patches of bright colours on his warm, Quidditch-callused hands. The combination of bright colours, sweetness and sound reminded Harry of the wonderful family he had joined long before his marriage.
Harry looked to his right and his eyes met Arthur’s, the last rays of the setting sun reflecting in his tear-filled eyes. The two men had been sitting in companionable silence since just after-eight; it was now nearly ten o’clock, but still neither man spoke.
The tranquillity around them, stark contrast to the turmoil within their hearts, was suddenly broken by a voice calling from the backdoor of the Burrow.
“Harry, Dad, come quick. It’s Hermione!” Ron’s six-foot plus frame filled the doorway, his voice, like his shadow, reaching far down the garden.
Harry quickly stood, wiping his sticky palms on his jeans before grasping the back of Arthur’s wheelchair and pushing him back up to the Burrow.
As they entered the warm glow of the kitchen, Ron was kneeling, grimacing, on a cushion in front of the fire. Hermione’s head was floating in the flames and she was talking sixteen to the dozen.
“Ron, you are writing this down, aren’t you? Otherwise you’ll get it all muddled up, you know what your memory’s like,” she chastened gently.
Harry saw a quill and a roll of parchment out of the corner of his eye, lying on the kitchen table; he handed them to Ron with a bottle of ink. But before he got a chance to ask anything, Ron shouted, “Harry, you prat. That’s a sugar quill and some of Fred and George’s new peppermint parchmint. There’s some ordinary stuff on the dresser.”
Harry turned to get it, but at that moment Bill entered the rapidly filling kitchen and handed the writing tools to his youngest brother. Harry took another cushion and knelt next to Ron.
“Well?” challenged Harry to Hermione’s floating head; he was too eager for news to make long-winded preambles.
“They’ve all been, Harry. You can relax. Madam Pomfrey said it was a very long labour, not unusual for a first pregnancy, but there were no complications for Ginny and she should have an easy post-natal recovery.”
“Hermione, you said ‘they’ve all been delivered’, surely you mean they’re both fine?” The question had come from Percy, standing and holding onto the doorframe, his sightless eyes hidden behind his horn-rim framed dark glasses.
Hermione addressed her answer to Harry, “Well actually, Harry, that was one of the reasons it was such a Marathon labour.” The excitement of being able to impart such joyful, but at the same time heartbreaking, news finally could be heard in Hermione’s voice.
“’Marnie, just spit it out will you before I come up there.” Harry was standing up now, his hair standing on end where he had been running his fingers through it.
Ginny had been absent from his side now for three days and it was killing him. Never had they been apart for so long and he still did not understand why he couldn’t be at his wife’s side during her delivery.
Hermione explained, after scolding Ron for saying, “Delivery? Makes her sound like a ruddy owl. It’s a birthing, Harry, a birthing!” that traditionally witches delivered their babies in family birthing pools attended by the females of the family and overseen by their ancestors spirits, whether seen or unseen. Each generation delivered there strengthened the protective charms ensuring the continuance of the line.
The attendance of men was apparently strictly forbidden, their only presence being talismen, specifically selected and charmed, placed at strategic points around the pool.
Dumbledore’s talisman had puzzled Harry until the aged Headmaster explained that the bag of sherbet lemons expressed his desire that the combined sweet/sharp protective shell – representing the strong family – would always contain a bubbly exuberant core full of life and sweetness.
The association of sweets and Dumbledore was an old one to Harry - had not the passwords to the Headmaster’s office always been a sweet of some kind? – and he liked the association of sweetness and childbirth even more.
When the other Weasley males had asked Harry what his talisman would be, when preparing for the birthing, Harry answered, truthfully, that he didn’t have a clue. He talked at length to the others and discovered a wide range of items had been used in the past, everything from a dragon claw to a freshly picked poppy.
It seemed to Harry that the choice of item seemed to have a direct reflection on the adult the children grew to be and this opinion seemed to be endorsed by Arthur when he acknowledged his talisman of a golden Snitch when Molly gave birth to Charlie.
After many days’ discussion and deliberation, Harry eventually decided on a solid gold charm bracelet Ginny had liked in a Diagon Alley jeweller’s shop. Each charm had been specially selected by Harry and included a golden Snitch, a tiny grandfather clock, a dragon, an owl, a feather, a potions bottle and a book. All these charms were of gold to match the chain, but Harry also selected a few special charms containing tiny jewels and semi-precious stones.
A four-leaf clover carved from an emerald.
A poppy-flower carved from a ruby.
A bluebird carved from a sapphire.
And a heart cut from diamond.
Despite the amount of time deciding on the bracelet, the care taken in the selection of each charm and the assurances of everyone that the talisman was perfect, Harry still worried what Ginny thought of it. But he wouldn’t find out until the birthing was over.
And now it seemed it was.
“Harry, I think you should sit down,” said Hermione with a rather solemn expression on her face.
Harry’s heart fell as he dropped to kneel on the rug beside Ron. If anything had gone wrong…
His mouth was uncharacteristically dry, a huge lump in his throat, rendering him speechless. He looked at Ron where he saw his own concern and worry mirrored in the eyes of his brother-in-law.
As the two men broke their gaze and looked back into the flames, Hermione continued swiftly.
“Ginny’s fine. She’s very tired and is resting. Madam Pomfrey is taking good care of her.”
Harry let out a breath he hadn’t known he was holding and visibly sagged, a small smile of relief tugging at the corners of his mouth.
“And…?” said Ron, once more speaking for Harry.
“Harry, you knew Ginny was expecting twins?”
Harry just nodded.
“Well, I’m afraid…” Now it was Hermione’s turn to bury her face in her hands. She seemed either unwilling or unable to continue. Harry’s frustration found him standing once more, his hand reaching for the pot of Floo Powder on the mantelpiece. His action prompted Hermione to continue.
“Harry, don’t. Please don’t,” she entreated.
“If you don’t tell me EXACTLY what’s happened to my children, Hermione, I swear…”
Hermione did not need him to finish his sentence.
“One of the babies died, Harry. The cord was around his neck too tightly. He didn’t stand a chance. Madam Pomfrey and the mediwitch did everything they could. I’ve never seen so many spells cast so fast and in such perfect unison, but nothing helped. I’m so sorry.” Even through the fire’s flames, Harry could see the tears falling freely from Hermione’s eyes.
“But the other twin? It’s OK, isn’t it?” asked Harry with a note of pleading in his voice.
“Harry, the other two are fine. Ginny wasn’t carrying twins – it was triplets! Madam Pomfrey says there were identical twin boys and a girl!”
Harry’s emotions were running wild – sadness at the death of one son and jubilation that he had a boy and a girl who were both fine. He’d always been told that parenthood was no picnic, but he hadn’t expected such a rollercoaster ride before he had even a chance to hold them in his arms.
Through the swirling emotions, Harry vaguely heard Hermione say something about not being strong enough to travel yet and complications.
“Who’s not strong enough? What complications? What’s wrong? What …?”
“Harry,” came Mr. Weasley’ s calm but commanding voice. “Come, sit down.” He indicated the end of the old, extremely comfortable sofa next to which his wheelchair was positioned.
Instantly Harry obeyed and as he sat, he ran both hands through his unruly hair, making it stand on end more than ever.
“Take it from someone who has been where you are on numerous occasions. You will see Ginny and the children soon enough. If anything bad happens …” Harry opened his mouth, but Mr. Weasley stopped him in his tracks with his quietly assertive words, “… you will be told immediately. It is one of those occasions where no news is good news. Try and relax and enjoy the moment.”
Mr. Weasley’s voice took on a storyteller’s lilt as he continued soothingly, “Feelings of pure joy are few enough in life, Harry, take the time to bask in this one for as long as you can. Lie back, close your eyes and feel. As a wizard, and a very powerful one at that, you will find that the love and joy experienced by those around us is almost palpable and visible. Relax and you may see the most amazing sights and sounds within your mind as your children’s magic bonds with yours and with Ginny’s. The distance apart does not matter. Now breathe deeply and calmly and enjoy…”
Harry felt himself drifting, not in sleep, but in a kind of meditation and contemplation. At the periphery of his senses, he could perceive a swirling interplay of warm earth tones varying from a warm russet red, through to yellow ochre. From out of nowhere came a starburst of almost neon bright yellow fading to a pale green. Harry was reminded of Fred and George’s Wildfire Whizzbangs. The more he relaxed the more his senses were opened to the experience.
Later Harry would swear he could taste Ginny’s strawberry flavoured lip-gloss as it lingered after a passionate kiss and smell the apple blossom shampoo she favoured. The only thing missing was the feel of her in his arms.
All at once the sensations changed.
The sights, sounds, smells and tastes now reminded Harry most strongly not of Ginny, but of Molly.
The smell of treacle tart baking in the oven, the sound of her giggling with laughter at one of Fred and George’s harmless pranks or jokes. The feel of her loving, motherly, embrace.
The tragedy was, however, that Molly Weasley was lying in a bed next to Alice Longbottom in the long-term residents ward of St.Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries. No one had been able to identify the curse that had been used on Molly during the final conflict, despite the best efforts of all the Healers and Madam Pomfrey.
Molly remained totally unchanged and had done so for three long years. She was like a robot waiting to be programmed. Tell her to sit and she sat. Tell her to walk and she walked. Her once formidable will, however, seemed to be totally gone. She sat in the chair beside her bed, day after day, waiting to be told what to do.
How then had Harry felt her presence so strongly and so vividly?
And then he heard her voice.
Softly at first but gradually growing in strength. “Harry? Harry, can you hear me?”
“Molly, is that you?” he replied hopefully. “Can you hear me?”
“Oh, Harry, you have no idea how happy I am to be able to hear your voice. It’s been so frustrating lying here week after week. I can hear all you say to me, but I am unable to break this damnable curse on my own.” Her words broke Harry’s heart. “How is everyone? How’s Ginny? Are the babes OK?”
“Molly, Ginny’s had a boy and a girl. They’re fine according to Madam Pomfrey and Hermione who were with her through the birthing. Ginny really missed you, Molly, during her pregnancy most of all” Even though his voice was only in his mind, Harry still felt as though he were speaking over a lump in his throat. “Molly, tell me what we must do to reach you. How can we help you break the curse?”
“It’s so simple, Harry, and that was what made the frustration worse. I just need someone in the family to tell me to break the curse and wake up. That’s all.” The emotion behind Molly’s words was plain and heartfelt.
“Molly, we’ll be together soon …” but before Harry could finish his sentence by saying “… I promise,” he was shaken awake by Ron.
“Harry. Harry, wake up,” came Ron’s insistent voice and energetic shaking.
Harry opened his bleary, unfocussed eyes to see a worried looking Hermione standing before him, one hand resting gently on his left arm while Ron still held his right.
“What’s wrong? Is Ginny OK?” challenged Harry back in panic mode. Seeing Hermione seemed to imply to Harry that something had happened. Why else would she have left the birthing chamber?
In a much quieter and more reassuring voice than Ron’s, Hermione said, “Ginny and the children are fine, I promise. It’s you we’re worried about.”
At these confusing words Harry looked around at a sea of worried Weasleys. “I’m fine. Honestly, I’m OK. Why were you worried about me?”
Arthur wheeled his chair over to the end of the couch on which Harry was still sitting. His mind was not so groggy that he failed to see that his father-in-law was dressed differently and that brilliant sunshine was streaming through the windows of the Burrow.
“My dear boy,” started Arthur, sounding more like Dumbledore than himself, “you closed your eyes over 36 hours ago. We have been trying to wake you for the last day. The last few weeks of sleepless nights finally caught up with you and your body … well it just needed some time out to re-charge itself I dare say. You were finally able to relax once the children and Ginny were safe.”
Harry could not deny the truth in Arthur’s words, but he could not wait another second to share with them his wonderful news.
“Mr. Weasley,” he began but at an expressive look from his father-in-law he continued, “Arthur. I have been able to speak, I suppose you could call it, with Molly.”
Two weeks later every single Weasley, accompanied by their wives, partners, girlfriends or ‘significant others’ travelled to a very special celebration, hosted by Harry and Ginny, held in the Great Hall of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The media, otherwise known as Rita Skeeter, were kept well away from this very private and very joyous affair.
Far from sitting idly beside her bed in St. Mungo’s, Molly had spent her time listening to numerous conversations spoken over her supposed unresponsive head by the Healers. She was a powerful witch in her own right and used the time to formulate a number of healing spells which, after initial testing, proved invaluable. Indeed she had been able to spell-weave a cure for Arthur’s curse damage so that on the day of the celebration they were able to walk through the doors of the Great Hall, arm in arm.
As the family lined up for Colin Creevey to take group photos, Harry looked around at his wife, two beautiful children and the loving extended family, which now included Mr. and Mrs. Ron Weasley and their soon-to-be family, and realised how far he had come from Number four, Privet Drive.